Goya, s Sleep of Reason


From the book   “IS IT TO BE Terminal Alienation Or Transformation For The Human”  by Jeremy Griffin.

Griffin writes about how it is almost a universal phenomenon  for humans to  be born into this experience of life in a state of intense sensitivity, that is life itself. He proposes that at sometime in the younger years the individual has a  reaction to this as they discover the truth of what  life is as humans have created it to be beyond  the wonder and mystery. Griffin refers to the reaction of resignation that arises from an inability to cope with the suffering that is the reality. The sensitivity  is a part of being awake to life but the resignation arises from awareness  of what the  human race has become  and what they as individuals are becoming and have become.  The only alternative is a state of sleep where the  truth can be avoided. What else are they to do at this point in life.

I have included an excerpt from the book.




In his best-selling 2003 book, Goya, about the great Spanish artist Francisco Goya, another Australian, Robert Hughes, who for many years was TIME magazine’s art critic, described how he ‘had been thinking about Goya…[since] I was a high school student in Australia…[with] the first work of art I ever bought…[being] a poor second state of Capricho 43… The sleep of reason brings forth monsters… [Goya’s most famous etching reproduced above] of the intellectual beset with doubts and night terrors, slumped on his desk with owls gyring around his poor perplexed head’. Hughes then commented that, ‘glimpsing The sleep of reason brings forth monsters was a fluke’ (pp.3, 4). A little further on, Hughes wrote of this experience that ‘At fifteen, to find this voice [of Goya’s]—so finely wrought [in The sleep of reason brings forth monsters] and yet so raw, public and yet strangely private—speaking to me with such insistence and urgency…was no small thing. It had the feeling of a message transmitted with terrible urgency, mouth to ear: this is the truth, you must know this, I have been through it’ (p.5). Again, while the process of Resignation is such a horrific experience that adults determined never to revisit it, or even recall it, Hughes’ attraction to The sleep of reason brings forth monsters was not the ‘fluke’ he thought it must have been. The person slumped at the table with owls and bats gyrating around his head perfectly depicts the bottomless depression that occurs in humans just prior to resigning to a life of denial of the issue of the human condition, and someone in that situation would have recognised that meaning instantly, almost wilfully drawing such a perfect representation of their state out of the world around them. Even the title is accurate: ‘The sleep of reason’—namely reasoning at a very deep level— does ‘bring forth monsters’! While Hughes hasn’t recognised that what he was negotiating ‘At fifteen’ was Resignation, he has accurately recalled how strong his recognition was of what was being portrayed in the etching: ‘It had the feeling of a message transmitted with terrible urgency, mouth to ear: this is the truth, you must know this, I have been through it.’ Note how Hughes’ words, ‘I have been through it’, are almost identical to Coles and Lawson’s words ‘I’ve been there.’

And so, unable to acknowledge the process of Resignation, adults instead blamed the well known struggles of adolescence on the hormonal upheaval that accompanies puberty, the so-called ‘puberty blues’—even terming glandular fever, a debilitating illness that often occurs in mid-adolescence, a puberty-related ‘kissing disease’. These terms, ‘puberty blues’ and ‘kissing disease’, are dishonest, denial-complying, evasive excuses because it wasn’t the onset of puberty that was causing the depressing ‘blues’ or glandular fever, but the trauma of Resignation. For glandular fever to occur, a person’s immune system must be extremely rundown, and yet during puberty the body is physically at its peak in terms of growth and vitality—so for an adolescent to succumb to the illness they must be under extraordinary psychological pressure, experiencing stresses much greater than those that could possibly be associated with the physical adjustments to puberty, an adjustment,
after all, that has been going on since animals first became sexual. No, the depression
and glandular fever experienced by young adolescents are a direct result of the trauma of having to resign to never again revisiting the unbearably depressing subject of the human condition.

4 thoughts on “Goya, s Sleep of Reason

  1. This passage gives clear evidence of Griffith’s biases. The obvious interpretation of Goya’s painting is that it is about sleeping and having a nightmare, not about depression. A person looking for a visual depiction of depression may see that in it, but that is not what the title or image imply. “The sleep of reason” is clearly not “reasoning at a deep level” but a temporary cessation of reasoning. Sleep is a temporary cessation of activity.

    Of course this has a deeper resonance. We use reason to try to keep control over the subconscious, which is expressed in our dreams and nightmares. To the extent that our understanding is not sufficient for us to integrate all of our thoughts and emotions into our functioning consciousness, some will be repressed into the subconscious and our reason then has to fight to keep our nightmares at bay. When our reason rests, our nightmares are liable to come forth, which is what is depicted in the painting.

    It is true that we go through a crisis during adolescence. This is brought on by the need to adopt repression. When we are young we have not accumulated enough frustration that we can’t express it fairly openly. And our sexuality comes on full-stream in adolescence. Griffith downplays this by saying that all animals go through it but it doesn’t produce excessive amounts of stress, but the difference is that we humans are expected to repress our sexuality to a large degree.

    Griffith’s theories are fascinating and stimulating, but they fall short of an understanding of the human condition.

    You can read my indepth analysis of his book here :



    1. I think that there is a lot that we repress including and other than sexuality. Theory just can not grasp the scope and quality of how our consciousness has been hijacked by our conditioned ways. The human process of thinking has been limited as well through the way we use language. Adopting the Platonic process of reasoning comes with a cost. I am eager to have a look ay your review and book. Thank You Kindly. Theory can help us to illustrate and conceptualize in a metaphoric symbolic way but the word is not the truth.


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